Addiction is a tragic reality in our society, affecting over 20 million Americans over the age of 12. And, even Christians can become addicted to drugs or alcohol. As a follower of Christ, it can be hard to rationalize addiction, in oneself as well as in loved ones. The Bible addresses addiction directly, often in condemnation, making claims like the one found in Proverbs 20:1:
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.”
Despite the sins associated with addiction, suffering from a substance abuse problem can be extremely traumatic, both emotionally and physically. A big part of this harm is related to the fallacies involved with addiction; many people believe damaging misconceptions related to substance dependency that can negatively impact the healing process for those involved.
Here are eight myths that you, your family, and your loved ones need to know about addiction.
1. Addiction is a Choice
Without personal experience, it’s hard to understand the true depths of addiction. From the outside, addiction seems like something that should be easy to control, and that includes an element of choice. In fact, it’s not uncommon to hear people use this logic to look down on those who haven’t yet taken the necessary steps to seek treatment.
In reality, addiction is anything but a choice. It’s true that many addictive behaviors, like using drugs, have an initial element of choice. However, the development of a chemical or psychological addiction is no one’s decision. Many addicts would choose in a heartbeat to undo an addiction, but this isn’t possible, and getting clean can’t happen alone.
2. Addiction is a Flaw or Moral Failing
Everyone views addiction in a negative light, and with good reason. From the words in the Bible describing addiction as a sin to the public perception of addiction as a personal moral failing, substance dependency is often interpreted as a problem with an individual’s inner spirit.
This is both a troublesome view and patently false. Anyone, including good Christians, can fall victim to addiction. It’s not a personal flaw or a failing; it’s just a part of life for those who are susceptible to the powers of substances like drugs or alcohol. God forgives those who choose to admit fault and make amends, and that’s a sign of strength, not weakness.
3. Willpower is All You Need to Get Sober
Willpower is frequently cited as a way to combat many of the negatives in life, from exercise to studying for class. However, willpower is only effective against choices, and addiction isn’t a choice.
Unfortunately, willpower cannot triumph over addiction independently. Choosing to quit isn’t as easy as it sounds, and conviction alone cannot win the fight against physical and mental dependency. Withdrawal, a condition related to stopping the use of an addictive substance, can be both uncomfortable and extremely dangerous; withdrawing from alcohol, for example, can lead to seizures, delirium tremens, or even death. Simply put, a little willpower is unlikely to make a difference for those facing addiction.
4. Rock Bottom is a Necessary Part of Recovery
In many narratives, overcoming addiction involves a character hitting rock bottom. Rock bottom comes in many forms. For example, rock bottom can be ending a relationship, dropping out of school, or losing a job. And, many people seem to believe that you have to hit rock bottom before becoming ready to seek help. This myth follows the idea that once you hit rock bottom, there’s nowhere else to go but up.
In real life, rock bottom is not a requirement for seeking help, and it is relative. Some addicts, especially those used to media interpretations of addiction, believe that they aren’t truly addicted until they hit the bottom, but this is not true. An addict can understand the reality of his situation at any time and can seek help through any avenue. In fact, according to studies, addicts who get help sooner are more likely to recover fully than those who wait until the situation has spiraled out of control.
5. Punishment is Helpful
As a negative life situation, it’s commonly believed that addiction requires punishment to help addicts get clean. This trope is seen in movies, books, and more – addicts being penalized by losing out on promotions, relationships, or financial gains – but in the real world, this concept isn’t beneficial, no matter the driver behind addiction.
There is no evidence that punishment has any effect on an addicted individual’s long-term success in recovery. In fact, punishments like loss of friendship, legal penalties, or employment challenges rarely have any bearing on an addict’s decision to seek help or recover from a substance dependency. Some addicts will continue a fairly normal life while their addiction gets worse. While it’s completely understandable for consequences to follow ongoing addiction, a willful punishment will not force a substance abuser to change his behavior.
6. One Treatment is Good Enough
Treatment for addiction comes in many different shapes and sizes, from inpatient rehabilitation to outpatient programs to support groups using 12 Steps. To many, especially those with no real exposure to addiction, all treatments are made equal, and an opportunity to get clean is good enough.
Realistically, this is not true. Even treatments of the same type vary greatly from one facility to the next, and a therapy that works for one addict may not work for another. As with most health-related issues, treatment should be centered around an individual’s core needs and beliefs, like a Christian facility for those who feel most comfortable recovering in a faith-based program or medically-supervised detox for those attempting to withdraw from substances like alcohol.
7. Having a Normal Life is Impossible After Addiction
Addiction tends to warp and change all aspects of life, from romantic relationships to career prospects. These changes can seem somewhat permanent for those with long-term substance abuse habits, driving those involved to accept the negative circumstances surrounding addiction as unchangeable.
However, there’s no need to assume these challenges will perpetuate forever. Those who overcome addiction are fully capable of returning to a normal lifestyle. No matter what the addiction was, patients in recovery have as much of a chance of gainful employment, normal interpersonal relationships, and healthy romantic partnerships as anyone else. It may take time to rebuild trust, but with dedication, commitment, and prayer, it’s possible to embrace the life you had before substance abuse took the reigns.
8. God Hates Addicts
Crises of faith are not uncommon for Christians struggling with addiction. Many followers of Christ facing substance abuse find themselves feeling lost, isolated, and alone, but this doesn’t have to be a permanent reality.
God’s word teaches acceptance and forgiveness, offering a way out for those who fell victim to addiction. As 1 John 1:9 states, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” While addiction is indeed a sin, it is possible to seek forgiveness and return to God’s good graces once more.
Addiction is a reality for millions of Americans and their families, affecting life in innumerable ways. However, many widely-believed addiction myths can negatively influence the road to recovery, holding many substance abusers back instead of promoting the support necessary to seek sobriety. If you would like assistance with your drug or alcohol addiction, Road to Freedom is here, offering Christian guidance for those in need. Please contact us at (844) 402-3605 to learn more.